ELIZABETHTOWN — Essex County lawmakers have tentatively OK’d establishing a trial program for the towns of Westport, Elizabethtown and Willsboro to contract with the county for property-assessment services.
The length of the pilot project would probably be one year but wouldn’t be be set until it gets another vote at the County Board of Supervisors Ways and Means session on May 28.
If it passes then, a final vote would take place at the June 4 regular meeting.
Supervisor Daniel Connell (D-Westport) proposed the effort as part of the three towns’ Coordinated Assessment Program, known as CAP.
The towns have entered into an agreement under Section 579 of the State Real Property Tax Law, so one assessor can provide assessment services for all municipalities in the program.
“We are in essence treated as one assessment unit,” Connell said. “If this is denied (by the county), we cannot even try to do this for another six years.”
‘PROFIT FOR COUNTY’
Connell said by law all sole assessor terms in the state expire Sept. 30, and new six-year terms start Oct. 1, which is why they are proposing it now.
The three towns in the CAP have already switched from elected assessors to an appointed professional sole assessor.
“Small towns find it difficult to find people qualified to be assessors,” he said. “It’s more of a problem all the time.”
He said the towns in the program have agreed to pay $14 per parcel to the county for assessing services.
“If we hire a sole assessor, we are locked for six years,” Connell said. “We believe the county has professionals on staff that can do a better job of assessing than we can find on the open market.”
County Real Property Tax Service Director Charli Lewis said a county assessor would cost $55,885 in salary and benefits, with $7,400 profit for the county, based on the towns’ projected payments.